5 Performance Tips for Speakers that I learned at a Music Festival

A few weeks ago I attended an amazing 3-Day outdoor music festival in Cincinnati called Bunbury. There were 5 different stages and plenty of musicians, some of which I had heard of and others that were completely new to me.

Over the course of the event, I found that some of the acts that I was really looking forward to were just OK, whereas other bands I had never heard of seemed to suddenly inspire me.

Was it just the music?

No. It was the performance.

Getting up on a stage isn’t just about playing your songs (or giving your speech). It is about connecting with the audience in a meaningful way.

Some bands really stood out because of their performance value. This is a lesson for speakers as well. As speakers we can stand out not just by the quality of our message, but also by the performance and entertainment that we provide.

1. Get the Audience Involved

Some musicians got the audience moving and excited, while others just played their songs. When the audience was involved, the energy and enthusiasm in the crowd made the performance that much better. People like to be engaged in a performance. Find ways to get the audience involved and moving (not just a “raise your hand if….”). Spend time brainstorming ways to engage your audience and have them participate – it will get the audience excited.

2. Go for Shock-Value – do something unexpected

At one point the lead singer of Twenty-One Pilots (one of my new favorite bands) actually climbed the scaffolding of the stage and stood on the top while singing (he probably got in a lot of trouble for it). Everyone was talking about it. Do something a little shocking (but still appropriate, and preferably something that won’t get you in trouble with the event coordinators) to cause people to really pay attention and get the audience buzzing about you.

3. Your energy level matters

One of the other things that really shocked me was how much the energy level of the performer seemed to rub-off on the audience. One big headliner simply played their songs and seemed bored – they got terrible reviews, despite being one of the more popular and anticipated acts. Another lesser-known band brought everything they had to the stage – the singer even did a backflip off of the piano. The crowd went wild the whole time. Energy is contagious.

4. Be Prepared and Know Your Audience

OK, maybe this is obvious, but one singer said “thank you Carolina” (we were in Cincinnati)…… The more prepared you are the better you will be received. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know that bands often chat with the audience during the show. Those who mentioned local experiences like a popular restaurant or nightlife location that they tried instantly built raport with the audience. Taking time to get to know the audience specifically and building it into your performance adds value.

5. Go Big or Go Home. Be Memorable

A big music festival is a great test of how good a performer is. They really need to stand out when people are seeing 10 shows a day. The best performers went big… one band wore different masks through the show, which kept the audience watching. Another had a really interesting heat-map light show. If you want to be remembered, stand out by doing something different.


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